We meet Philip Eaton, of Downsland Park, in Norfolk, and find out what the retired trucker loves about the park lifestyle
You will never be alone in this world as long as you have a tongue in your head.’These were the wise words spoken by Philip Eaton’s father and have stayed with him throughout his life.
Philip was one of nine siblings who benefited from living an outdoor farm life in Wingfield, Norfolk, where his father was head horseman.While a strict man, Philip’s father was full of wisdom and taught his children all he knew. He ploughed the fields with the horses and worked hard.Their mother taught all the children to cook and they were a united family who are still close today.
By his own admission, Philip was not great at school, often missing lessons to escape to the farm. However, he swore he would never work on the farm after his school years.Why? Because the work was far too hard! Besides, Philip had the desire to travel.
As a young child Philip had aspirations to become a truck driver. However, on leaving school he became a builder’s labourer for six years, which he loved. During this time he got married and became a father to a daughter and a son.
The opportunity to become an HGV driver came when a local family transport business advertised for a trainee. Philip will always remember the man who trained him.The initial three weeks’ training was on the mechanics of the truck – in those days there was no ‘road rescue’, just driver and tool box. Philip talks of the times that diesel would freeze (no additives), the need to clean filters and ensure loads were water tight. Philip worked there for 15 years and enjoys a wealth of happy memories. As Pan, Mills and Boon, Collins’ Atlases and more to distribution centres (these were wasted on Philip as he was never a great reader!); plus bulk freight haulage where malt was carried to the brewers (they didn’t let him near the finished products!).
By this stage the children were leaving home, an 80 to 90 hour week had been challenging and Philip decided on a change. He worked at a box factory operating machines, roping and sheeting, where he could take pride in his work. He did this for five years but, sadly, divorce followed, coinciding with a closure of his role. However, this followed a chance within the same company to rekindle his love of trucking throughout the UK.
Philip sold his bungalow and although meant to temporarily move in with his sister for four weeks it lasted for four-and-a-half years! He worked as a self-employed haulage driver for the same company for the next ten years.The industry has changed and, disappointingly, everything has become more controlled with health and safety enforcing greater restrictions. As an example, Philip explains that one day he had sat for hours on the A14, snow bound, on the way from Felixstowe to one of the main retail distribution centres in Loughborough. Although he had called to say he was delayed, he was told to forge on only to be turned away on destination as he had missed his time slot!
But a whole new dimension and experience came to Philip’s life in 2004. He applied to be a montage driver for a company best known for Euro Camp, with opportunities involving European travel for the next ten years.
Initially, Philip was posted to Levant, in France, responsible for 15 different sites, putting up tents and cleaning the exterior of mobile homes ready for the holiday season.
Philip mixed his work between the temporary three-month assignments overseas and haulage work with his previous employer each year. He explains his work abroad as phenomenal – driving and enjoying France, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Corsica and Sardinia. Philip happily says he takes life as it comes.
In 2006 he applied to be a montage driver in Beziers, in France, which consequently lasted three years! This took him throughout all of Europe and he proudly claims there is no road he hasn’t passed!
Philip wasn’t in it for the money so much as the experience and freedom, and the fantastic comradeship among his work colleagues. It’s not long ago that they all got together for a four-day reunion break!
Latterly, Philip bought himself a camper van in which he stayed for winter shifts in both eastern and northern France (he says he was too old to be camping!).
Return to roots
Philip’s contract came to a close in 2014 and he is now based in the UK.The appeal of park home living and the need to be near his family encouraged Philip to research sites and homes in the Norfolk area. He found Downsland Park, in Great Moulton, Norfolk, a small ‘old English’ rustic country site with a friendly community of 36 well-maintained homes.
No cold floors thank you!
Philip’s home had originally been bought as an investment home so he purchased it in good condition with everything he needed. However he was driven to research under floor insulation.
‘I have lived in mobile homes in Holland in up to -23C temperatures,’ explained Philip.‘So I decided I was not going to risk insulating fleece blankets on the floor ever again.
‘I was really impressed with Park Home Chassis Services (PHCS) and employed the company to install the PHCS under floor insulation system for which I am very pleased.The surveyor was very thorough and although I had personally been underneath the home he was able to point out much more.
‘I also believe that having the PHCS under floor insulation system and the new PHCS HD supports is a great selling tool should I ever want to sell my home on.’
Easy come, easy go
Philip is now fully retired. He thought he might get bored but that has not been the case! ‘I wake up early and say: “This is my life so what shall I do today?”.
‘The other day I found a site on Facebook about long-lost haulage memories. I caught up with old friends – I started at 8.30am and finished at 5.00pm. Only then did I realise I was hungry as I hadn’t had breakfast yet! That’s the freedom I now have.’
Philip spends time with his family. He regularly sees his daughter and grandchildren. He is visiting his son in Scotland shortly – for as long they’ll put up with him!
Another imminent plan is to get his motorbike (Honda Sports tourer) on the road again to go on runs with his three brothers and niece who are proud owners of Harley Davidsons. A good friend has also just purchased a holiday home in France so he is planning a six week stint helping to do that up! I think Philip is a prime example of the benefits of letting life take its course.
I just wonder what is coming next?